Fight To Stop Turkey Creek Development Grows Larger

A small group of north Gulfport residents and supporters sang together in celebration. They came to Forrest Heights Baptist Church to honor Dorothy Height, a woman who is known across the United States for her dedication to civil rights that reaches back to the 1950s.

Gulfport attorney Carol Henderson described Height as a "a strong, black woman who stands tall and proud and who knows her place and her obligation to society."

In the 1960s, Height helped develop the Forrest Heights subdivision, a place where African-American families could own their own homes. It is still in existence, but people in the community say it's being threatened.

A developer wants to fill in hundreds of acres of wetlands in Turkey Creek for a large development, and opponents say that could lead to flooding in Forrest Heights and other black neighborhoods.

"After 30 years of struggle during the Civil Rights movement and Jim Crow laws to bring in black home ownership, the threat is now again with taking away that home ownership with destructive commercial projects and we won't let it happen," said Monique Harden, an environmental attorney from New Orleans whose firm has joined the fight.

Community members have been fighting the project for months and now Dorothy Height is throwing in her support and calling for more people to join the cause.

"We have to wake our whole community up to the importance of the issues that affect us," Height said.

Height's speech served to rally supporters, reminding them that even when facing wealthy opponents, poor neighborhoods can win when they band together.

"Stay the course," she told supporters.  "You cannot just go in and out the days that you feel like it."

National newspapers have picked up on the story about the Turkey Creek project.  A Washington Post article says that Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran have used their influence to ensure the developer gets the permits he needs.